The Central Mission of the Church

The following came from the Dalraida Digest in Montgomery AL and was taken from excerpts from an article by brother Charles Hodge. My comments will be interspersed, shorter ones in [] and larger ones offset. {my original comments, now that I’ve found the original, are in blue}

Preaching is the primary, central, decisive function of the church.

Nick here: This is a sweeping assertion, without a shred of Scriptural evidence offered to support it. If it is true, according to the definition assumed by the author, all which follows must be true. If it isn’t true, and I don’t think Scripture supports such a claim, then we must carefully read what follows. {How many Christians were converted in the 1st century? How many became preachers?}

When the church preaches more and more; it grows. [Nick: Did the church grow everywhere that Paul preached? Seems like Jesus told a parable about preaching, and the conclusion was *not* that preaching would make the church grow] We have gotten out of preaching. We do not need a minor tune-up; we need a major overhaul. God’s church is in the preaching business, not the church-growth business. Nothing is more harmful than a “harmless preacher.” Too much preaching today is not preaching. This is not the time for cowards. Preaching is not nice people telling nice people to be nicer. Preachers don’t lecture to impress; they preach to convict.

Nick here: I’d rather say, “Nothing is more harmful than a harmless Christian.” Too many Christians are so holy that butter won’t melt in their mouth, but they don’t inspire a moment’s worth of fear in the heart of Satan. The sin-sick, broken, desperately lost world around us needs Christians who are charging the gates of Hades by living Gospel lives of sacrificial love and truth-telling.

We claimed to be the fastest growing church in the 1950s. All we did then was preach. [Nick: What did we preach, though? 10-day meetings preaching against the denominations hardly equates to preaching the gospel that turned the Roman Empire on its ear] We went from 10-day meetings to one week, then four days, then weekends, now only “Super Sundays.” Then we wonder what is wrong with us. In Sunday worship, our children are taken out prior to the sermon. Because the sermon represents God [WHERE IS THAT WRITTEN??? That whole concept has more to do with modern practice and Great Awakening theology than it does with Scripture and ancient practice, where God appeared to eat with His people at His Table], they are taken out when God shows up. Children need to be raised in an aura of adult worship, not kid stuff. [AMEN! but not because God shows up in the sermon] Then we wonder why our kids quit the church at 18; they were never in it. [AMEN, except that they aren’t leaving because they didn’t hear enough sermons.] Our young boys will never be motivated to become great preachers when they have never heard great preaching or known great preachers. Only preachers preach. Church, get yourself a preacher. Tragically, we have office managers, lecturers, storytellers, speakers, psychologists, entertainers, comedians, but we don’t have preachers!

Nick here: I understand what the author is trying to get at. Discipline of focus. Finding the one thing that matters. Jesus did say, “When your eye is single, then your whole body will be full of light,” along with, “You are busy with many things; Mary has chosen the #1 thing, and it will not be taken from her.” {Is ‘preaching’ as defined by the author, the ONE THING the church should be doing?} But I assert that preaching IS telling the story of Jesus of Nazareth as the Crucified Messiah of the world. What the church needs is not LESS storytellers, but less polemicists looking to get an article published for writing a zinger against the latest hot-button issue, person, or congregation. What the church, and the world, needs are MORE storytellers sold out to the story of Jesus.

God’s sheep are starving at the Master’s table. Our brotherhood is starved for simple plain gospel preaching. {The WORLD is starving; preachers don’t exist to feed the flock — that’s what shepherds are for} Why hire a man to preach and then tell him not to preach? Brethren are demanding 20 minute sermons. How dumb can we be? Do you spend a fortune to send your children to Harvard to attend 20 minute classes? Would you invite Jesus to come speak the Sermon on the Mount in 20 minutes?

Nick here: “Cast not your pearls before swine, lest they ignore your pearls and devour you.” The more we try and shackle people to a pew for an hour or three, for a week or two, convinced in our hearts that aural instruction is best, the more this parable will come true. The preacher of the long sermon, and the speaker at the long meeting, these men and their supporters value their material and their method like pearls, but they are offering those pearls to men and women who cannot consume them! Indeed men and women are starving, but all this hue and cry for longer sermons and prolonged “Gospel meetings” sounds more like people crying out to have their ears tickled by what they’ve always liked.

By the way, any money paid to a bad preacher is too much; any money paid to a great preacher is never enough. Preachers either tickle ears or break hearts. Preachers are not salesmen; preaching is not selling. You don’t sell Christianity. You preach Christ; you live Christianity. Preachers are not celebrities. An audience makes a decision every time the Word is preached. God’s truth demands a verdict. When you get in the pulpit, be the best preacher on earth! God wants it; the world needs it.

Nick here: Why wait until you get in the pulpit? Why not be the most dangerous believer on earth right now? Why not look around and realize that the pulpit is going the way of the dodo? The last thing the world needs is more pulpits. I thank God that perhaps, finally, in this generation, that particular post-Constantinian innovation might be removed from Christian tradition! I pray that we will return to house-to-house and in-the-marketplace transformative storytelling, where the Balm of Gilead will be brought directly to the places where the world groans in futility and travail, by men and women sold out to the Christ, whose words and deeds tear down the Enemy’s spiritual strongholds and make every thought obedient to the Lord. My preaching brothers, please know that I bear no ill will towards you. Your years of service, your dedication to the Word, is honorable and lovely. My frustration turns toward this attitude of pulpit-reliance that requires most believers to be spectators, and looks back to ‘the good ol’ days’ as if America was transformed by the thousands of men and women in the 1950s who placed membership at the local Church of Christ. As Groucho [I think] said, “Don’t kid yourself, sonny. THESE are the good ol’ days.”

in HIS love,

nick

I believe the central mission of the church is to live out, in word and deed, the story of Jesus in ways that people can internalize and imitate.

What do you think? What is the central mission of the church?

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About Nick Gill

orphan-poet-adoptee-soldier-prodigal-servant-husband- counselor-desperate seeker after my Father's face "I feel my body weakened by the years as people turn to gods of cruel design. Is it that they fear the pain of death, or is it that they fear the joy of life?" - Toad the Wet Sprocket

Posted on 20 May, 2009, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. ACK!!! Where’d my content go???

    Oh man, I hate it when I spend 45 minutes typing a response, only to see it vanish into the broad expanses of the Internet.

    Augh.

  2. There are days when I think the churches of Christ are making incredible strides towards finding their place in the kingdom. Then there are days when I wonder if that will ever happen. Reading the remarks about “more preaching” makes it feel like one of the latter types.

    The churches of Christ have had 60 years from the suggested “fasted growing church” period until now. It has been 60 years of talk. That’s why the world no longer listens. If there was action on the part of these dying churches, they wouldn’t be dying.

    There is a gospel out there in the CofC that is different gospel, and its neither liberal nor conservative. It’s different. It has nothing to do with serving your neighbor, or even loving God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength. It’s about having all of the “right” doctrine and waving that fact around as a get-out-of-Hell-free card. That’s not the gospel.

    As you have said, there is only one thing that will win souls: living the gospel day-to-day, demonstrating the love and power therein. All other suggestions should be ignored, for they are of a different gospel.

    • Brad,

      Thanks for stopping by — I hope you’ll continue to share your insight and experience with us!

      You’re absolutely right about “a different gospel, which is no gospel at all.” I’d go so far as to call it VERY liberal in the classical sense of the term — it is just as ‘liberal’ to bind what Christ has not bound as it is to loose what the Lord has not loosed.

      Jay Guin wrote a book called Do We Teach A Different Gospel? addressing that very concern within the CoC. You can download it for free at http://oneinjesus.info — it is well worth the read.

      I have great hope for the churches of Christ, but that hope lies in the transformative power of the Holy Spirit! He is doing his catalytic work, and the evidence is appearing like roses in abandoned lots. I pray that those who would quench that Spirit in favor of their traditions will repent quickly, and I pray that I will hold to my own traditions very very loosely.

      in HIS love,
      nick

  3. Nick, I didn’t want to enter into a discussion on the no-discussion Gospel Preachers list. My main beef was with the opening statement, especially because the article seemed to focus on preaching done in the assembly. Had it focused on preaching in the biblical sense, I would have been more comfortable with it. But I do think it fails to recognize a lot of what the church needs to be doing.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

    • I’ve decided to follow your lead, Tim, on the GP-group. I will lurk, and pop in and out every now and again, but I’m picking my battles MUCH more carefully.

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